The Layover: NYC

Here’s the start of a series of posts from my sister, Ana, regarding our Caribbean Adventure. Enjoy!

We were vacationing in Foz do Iguacu last year, when we planned to hit the Caribbean. The selection was kind of random.

How about a cruise?

Sure. Why not?

Let’s sail from Puerto Rico.

Okay.

We’re hitting five ports and five countries.

I’m in!

Although I highly recommend backing up vacation planning with some meticulous research, letting loose and not knowing where we would end up made our trip so much more exciting.

The first leg of our adventure: Los Angeles – Newark.

My twelve year old patiently waited for me all day in my office building one Thursday. As soon as I clocked out, we headed to the Van Nuys Flyaway where I had planned on leaving our car for the next ten nights. I felt pretty smug having discovered it only cost $4 a day to park there. After securing a covered parking spot, we boarded the bus going to LAX.

The airport was congested but we had enough time to relax by our boarding gate. We were catching a red-eye flight to Newark where we had an eleven hour layover before getting on another flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. While waiting to board, the ground attendant announced that the plane was overbooked, and that they needed volunteers for a later flight. My son and I looked at each other. United was offering vouchers of an undisclosed amount. Broke mom in me was tempted to go for it. We had eleven hours to kill in Newark. We could take the vouchers and catch any flight that will take us anywhere in the east coast that flies to Puerto Rico. Lazy mom in me didn’t want to get up from my seat to go through the hassle of negotiating and planning a new itinerary, so we passed up on the opportunity to earn (possibly) $800 of United travel vouchers.

After five hours and twenty minutes in United skies, we landed in Newark, New Jersey. Now what? I had absolutely no idea what we would do for the next eleven hours.

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I googled New Jersey’s iconic boardwalks and Brooklyn’s Coney Island, thinking maybe we could take an Uber to either. I could tell it was hot outside, and there were no lockers for us to leave our carry-on rollies. Lazy mom in me came up with all the excuses to just hang out at the airport. With my brother’s persuasion (via text: “Go out! You’ll regret it if you don’t!), and after bitterly spending $16 on a two piece fried chicken, and $10 on a slice of pizza from the airport concession, I was ready to get out!

I got on the phone with my good friend from Queens. She told me to haul our luggage to the front of the airport and look for a bus that would take us to New York City!

We hopped on a Newark Express going to NYC. When I awoke from my nap, I heard my son softly saying “welcome to the Big City.”

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We started our Big City exploration from Grand Central Terminal. Anywhere else in the world, we would have looked out of place lugging our rollies and backpacks. Not in New York! What I love about this place is that nobody has time to sweat the small stuff!

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Our first stop was Simit Sarayi, a Turkish Bakery and Cafe along 5th Avenue. My son Ippo and I cooled off with an iced coffee and a strawberry shake before heading off to the New York Public Library and Bryant Park.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Theatre District, and watching Portugal vs. Spain on Times Square Billboard, while enjoying delicious slices of pizza from Rock Pizza Scissors. Now this pizza is way cheaper and by far more sumptuous than any airport pizza.

I asked my son if he was tired from all the walking. He looked happy and told me he was good, and mentioned something about possibly attending NYU after high school. Ahh. I was just delighted to discover that he loved NY as much as I did. This place was certainly more exciting than any other city we’ve ever lived in.

Remembering how sucky and expensive airport food was, we stuffed our backpacks with some snacks from the Walgreens in Times Square before catching the Newark Express going back to the airport.

Traffic getting out of NYC in the afternoon was insane, but we made it back to our gate on time. As we were waiting to board our flight to San Juan, I thought to myself, my son’s first time in New York City was worth so much more than the $800 travel vouchers we passed up on. How many people get to eat great pizza right smack in the middle of Times Square while watching the World Cup? Our New York layover was priceless. And this wasn’t even part of the plan.

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